Tandoori-Style Chicken Tenders Recipe (just 3 ingredients)
While my children will probably never, ever tire of the same old chicken tenders from the freezer section, I am extremely tired of serving them. And extremely tired of pretending that super-processed, loaded with sodium, heavily-breaded chunks of dry chicken are a healthy choice just because the bag says ALL WHITE MEAT in all capital letters.
These Tandoori-Style Chicken Tenders, on the other hand, I will never tire of.
Because they are both genuinely delicious AND ridiculously simple to make. Oven-baked with no breading, yet packed with flavor. These are chicken tenders the whole family can enjoy without feeling like you’ve ordered off the kids’ menu.
My go-to special ingredient: Tomato Achaar
There is one catch to my specific preparation, however, which is that I use Brooklyn Dehli’s Tomato Achaar. I have no words to describe how amazing this sauce is — it’s something between a chutney and a chili sauce that manages to be spicy, sweet and tangy all at once. It’s packed with tomatoes and garlic and Indian spices and just the right amount of heat from red chili powder. I’m completely obsessed with it.
Unfortunately, it’s not the most widely available ingredient — I was introduced to it thanks to Blue Apron, then tracked it down online. It’s available on Amazon but goes out of stock a lot, so you might need some patience. OR you can order it here and here. I know it sounds overly precious to special order a $9.99 condiment for freaking chicken tenders, but I promise you’ll want to use it on anything and everything (eggs! ramen! stir fry! mac & cheese!). This stuff totally deserves to be the next Sriracha, and when it hits the big time you can totally be all Smug Hipster that you were into it before it was cool. It’s THAT GOOD.
(Here’s a recipe for a homemade version, but I personally took one look at that and fired up the Amazon app instead.)
ALL THAT SAID, if you can’t find it, this recipe will work with a wide variety of prepared Indian-style sauces and spice pastes. If you’ve got a local Indian grocery store, ask for tomato achaar (also spelled achar) and they’ll likely point you to something similar. If you’re limited to your local supermarket’s “international aisle,” you can still usually find a jarred tomato-based sauce or condiment, typically labeled as a “simmer sauce” or “tandoori paste.” Just note that the spice levels can vary WILDLY (particularly with pastes vs. sauces), so be sure to TASTE whatever you end up with and adjust the marinade ratio accordingly. My version comes out mildly spicy but not overly so. If you’re super spice-sensitive, feel free to cut back on the sauce and/or add more yogurt to taste.
And now that I’ve spent more time talking about this recipe than it actually takes to make this recipe, let’s get on with it…
My Recipe for Tandoori-Style Chicken Tenders
- 1 lb chicken tenders (or sliced chicken breasts)
- 2 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt
- 2 tbsp Tomato Achaar or other jarred Indian-style tomato-based sauce (see above)
1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
3. In a large bowl or freezer bag, combine the yogurt and sauce. Taste and adjust for your preferred spice level. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
4. Add the seasoned chicken tenders and toss to thoroughly coat. Allow to marinate on the counter, turning occasionally, for at least 10 minutes, or up to overnight in the fridge.
5. Arrange the chicken tenders on an ungreased baking sheet and spoon any additional marinade over them. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Cooked tenders will keep for three to four days in the fridge. (I’ve never personally tried freezing them, but see no reason why you couldn’t.)
My preference for a dipping sauce is to make a stripped-down raita sauce — a quick mix of yogurt and grated/diced cucumber, seasoned with salt and pepper. I might also add some smashed garlic or a spritz of lemon juice, if I’ve got those handy.
My children, on the other hand, prefer something sweeter to cut the spice, so I give them honey mixed with garam masala spice blend. (About 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon for every tablespoon of honey.) The tenders go great with cucumber slices or a crunchy side salad.
More Cooking for Kids with Amalah:
1. Super Crunchy Tuscan Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad that Kids Love, too!
2. Build a Healthier Nugget for Kids: Double Cauliflower Turkey Nuggets Recipe
3. Cooking For (& With) Kids: Citrus Sweet Potatoes, Two Ways